Training for life

When discussing the development of the student as a human person, Newman describes the ideal to be sought. ‘A habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation and wisdom’.

John Hungerford Pollen, the Professor of Architecture in Dublin and formerly a senior proctor at Oxford, paid tribute to the way Newman aimed to foster moral training in Dublin.

‘Newman was very decided as to the status of University students. The duty of the Institution in this regard, was to take them when the age of boyhood was over, to discipline and train their faculties; to educate, and not merely to instruct; to prepare them for warfare with the world; to make men of them.’ (Pollen to Goldie, August 1890)

Pollen thought this principle was poorly understood in Ireland, whereas for Newman students between 18 and 21 were no longer boys;

‘neither was the Institution with its colleges a seminary. It was a gymnasium for the formation of character, and the training of the intellect. It had to exercise its youth in the right use of moral restraint; to prepare them for that full liberty which awaited them when University life was ended. They had to learn the right use of liberty as well as the right use of the reasoning powers, and to appreciate the confidence placed in their honour. The fact that such liberty is sometimes abused in the old Universities did not frighten Father Newman. The great value he attached to the kind of discipline he proposed more than outweighed any danger of abuse. And against such danger a Catholic University had safeguards which were lacking in the older institution.’ (Pollen to Goldie, August 1890)

Newman witnessed the beginning of that unrestrained quest for professional training and mere technical knowledge, urged by the liberals and utilitarians of his day, and saw an antidote in both a genuinely liberal education and a collegiate education; if a university neglects the residential side then it neglects what it is most dangerous to neglect. Newman inherited the idea that the moral development of the whole person was an essential part of the liberal education associated with Oxford and Cambridge; this education was supposed to form and shape character and inculcate a sense of high responsibility to society. Insofar as it is a place merely for the dissemination of knowledge, a university invariably has a limited effect on the student: the college, aided in its task by the Church, can transform an individual. As Newman commented, ‘The world is content with setting right the surface of things; the Church aims at regenerating the very depths of the heart’. (Idea of a university)

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